Highland Council could find themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket after blocking a controversial wind farm south of Inverness – if the company behind it decides to appeal the decision.
Councillors unanimously voted to reject the application for 13 turbines at Tom nan Clach, Glenferness, at a planning meeting on Tuesday despite applicants Nanclach already having permission to build 17 turbines at the site, which was granted by the Scottish Government on appeal in 2013.
The energy company is now considering appealing the decision again and if it is granted the council could be hit with the costs of up to £300,000.
If a planning applicant wins an appeal against a local authority they have a right to claim expenses. If granted, the council must cover the costs of both sides which usually amounts to between £200,000 and £300,000.
Nanclach lodged the second application as it wants to reduce the number of turbines from 17 to 13 but make them bigger, from 110m to 125m, and more spread out. The company claims this will increase the overall “energy yield” by 26 per cent.
This sparked an outcry of 161 objections including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the John Muir Trust.
Nairn provost Laurie Fraser criticised the plans for his ward during the meeting.
“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” he said. “We’re going to have a wind farm here whether we like it or not.”
But councillor Bill Lobban said comparing the two was like having permission to build a bungalow and erecting a four-storey building.
He added: “The original decision to refuse was the right decision. This change would make matters much worse.”
Infinergy, acting on behalf on Nanclach, said the company is considering appealing the decision.
Esbjorn Wilmar, managing director of Infinergy, said: “This is an extremely disappointing decision by Highland Council. This redesign provides an opportunity to greatly increase the renewable electricity generated on the site. They (councillors) don’t seem to be interested in the slightest in the opportunity to generate more renewable energy from an already consented site.”
A spokeswoman for the company later added they could not rule out claiming against the council for appeal costs.
She said: “The combined cost of an appeal is between £200,000 and £300,000. Until now we have never claimed for costs because we believe it’s not a good thing to put that on the taxpayer.
“So far we never have but I can’t say for definite that we won’t.”